When there is no microwave or fridge that doesn’t have to be what stops you from eating healthy, satisfying meals!
Some days, you can store your meal-prepped lunch in a refrigerator. Some days, you have access to a microwave to heat up your meal to your heart’s content. But some days, you just don’t!
I’ve been there. At my first job, fridge space was hard to come by, especially when the New Year’s resolutions to spend less money buying lunch rolled in every January. But secretly, I’m grateful for my limited fridge access because it helped me find recipes I felt confident eating at room temperature. After all, there’s nothing worse than being ravenous and having to wait in line for the work microwave (that somehow seems to break once a week).
Whether you’re on the go, between classes at school or there is no microwave or fridge at work, I’ve rounded up delicious recipes that I love and are perfect (and safe) to keep at room temperature—no reheating necessary.
How do you keep lunch cold without a fridge?
Before we get into the recipes, let’s talk about the tools you’ll need for success. The right lunchbox and ice pack combination can be just what you need to put your mind at ease over not refrigerating your food. These are some of your best options.
PackIt – Though they have many fun patterns and colors to choose from, these lunch bags aren’t just nice to look at. PackIt freezable lunch boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes to suit your preferences, whether you’re looking for something smaller to fit in your backpack or a tote to throw over your shoulder.
Store the bag in your freezer overnight, and before you leave for work stick your meal prep containers inside. Then, keep it by your desk until you’re ready to dig in! Your lunch will stay chilled inside.
MIER Adult Lunch Boxes – These bags are insulated, leakproof, and spacious, MIER’s adult lunch boxes will keep your food cool (or warm!) for hours.
Fit and Fresh Cool Coolers – Slim and easily packable, buy this set and use as many as you want—or can fit in your lunch bag—to keep your food cold.
Rubbermaid Sandwich Kit – This little unit is a great option to not only keep your main meal cold, but also any snacks you’re taking for the day!
There are ways to heat up your food without a microwave:
HotLogic – If you’re someone who loves eating a hot lunch but you don’t have a microwave at your office, you should probably invest in this mini personal portable oven, which allows you to heat up food on the go and it’s totally safe. How cool is that!
Related: Meal Prep Sandwiches and Wraps
Is Food Safe to Eat When You Have No Microwave Or Fridge?
According to the FDA, it is not advised to eat food that’s been left at room temperature for more than two hours—that’s when it starts to enter the “danger zone,” when its temperature hovers between 40 and 140 degrees F and it can start to develop harmful bacteria. Be careful to pack your food in an insulated bag with an ice pack and you’ll at least double its lifespan. If you’re really worried, you can pop a small thermometer in your lunch bag to keep an eye on the temp. Luckily, in most cases, you’ll be just fine if you use your judgment. Don’t eat anything that smells bad or looks funny, and if the first bite doesn’t taste quite right put it down, but odds these no-reheat recipes won’t let you down.
Some of our all-time favorite meals to eat with no microwave or fridge:
A veggie burrito bowl will never let you down, even at room temperature. You can keep extra toppings on the side, too, if you’re worried they will wilt.
This salad is bright, full of texture, and really hits the spot! It is the perfect no-reheat salad to take into the office.
This sheet pan meal is extremely delicious and versatile! You can switch it up throughout the week to keep things interesting. This meal will stay cool with an ice pack and is perfect for when you run into a situation with no microwave or fridge.
Snack lunch boxes are perfect when you need a little variety in your everyday routine. Add all your favorite snacks, fruits, veggies, dips, chocolate, etc. This one also has a pinwheel wrap with garlic aioli to keep you full through the entire workday.
No Microwave or Fridge Grain Bowls
Trendy, yes, but for good reason! These grain bowls aren’t just filling— they’re also great candidates for no-reheat, no-fridge lunches because they taste great at room temp. But the best part is that they’re super versatile—you can switch it up with whatever grain you have on hand or enjoy most.
Veg = vegetarian; V = Vegan
When I’m planning meals for a busy week, I know I’m in good shape if I have lentils and quinoa in my pantry. I love making this grain bowl if I know I’m going to be working remotely, but don’t want to spend $10+ on lunch just because I won’t have a fridge nearby.
This isn’t your regular Waldorf salad. The base here is quinoa and we aren’t using mayo since we know that can be a turnoff for some folks!
One of my favorite quinoa bowls not just because it takes 30 minutes to make, but because it ticks two of my favorite boxes: unexpected but delicious flavor profile and ONE POT. It also keeps like a dream and somehow gets better as the week goes on.
Couscous doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but I’m a huge fan. The spices on the chicken and the texture of couscous make this simple recipe a little unique—definitely not your average chicken and rice bowl! I like the idea of swapping in Israeli couscous, too.
It’s hard not to love tabbouleh, and I love that adding a bit of quinoa makes it so much more satisfying. This recipe makes 6 servings, so it’s great for sharing with a partner or a roommate.
This recipe features my favorite grain, farro. I love its chewy texture, and something about the roasted squash and farro combo just makes me feel cozy whether it’s chilled, warm, OR at room temperature! If you’ve never tried farro…I don’t have anything clever to say, I just think you should try it!
Related: Meal Prep Snacks: The Best Snacks To Take To Work Or School
No Microwave or Fridge Sandwiches/Wraps
These sandwiches and wraps are self-contained powerhouses. Just assemble, pack, and enjoy when you’re ready, no need to heat up or keep cool. Sandwiches are a great option when there is no microwave or fridge available.
This pesto chicken salad ciabatta sandwich is SO GOOD and you can enjoy it in a couple of different ways. Have it on some crunchy bread, as shown above, stuffed in a pita, as an open-faced sandwich, or eat the filling on its own!
Pita pockets are hearty, durable, and portable, making them perfect for packing into your work bag especially when there is no microwave or fridge. Nearly anything you can put on a sandwich, you can put inside a pita pocket and it’ll be just as good. A perfect example is this upgraded PB&J, or whatever nut butter and fruit or jam combo works for you. Lately, I’ve been packing almond butter and sliced plum with a little cinnamon sprinkled inside on Joseph’s pita bread.
If you haven’t discovered the apple and cheddar and turkey combination, this sandwich is a great and easy start. Two pro-tips here: to avoid soggy bread, toast it slightly before assembling the sandwich and a little lemon juice prevents apple slices from browning—works like a charm!
These wraps are packed with veggies, and customizable in just about every way! If you want to take it a step further and make your own hummus as well, here is our easy and delicious recipe! And if you want a similar recipe, check out our roasted veggie sandwich.
The day I discovered curry chicken salad was a very happy day. Not a fan of mayo, like me? I sub plain greek yogurt with a little lemon juice. Put this inside a wrap, pita pocket, or on toasted bread and you’re in business.
I was late to the buffalo-anything game, but buffalo tofu and tempeh is now something I crave at least once a month. Great on a sandwich or a wrap, or stuffed into a pita!
A tuna salad sandwich is a classic go-to for a quick and easy lunch. You can make the filling a few days in advance but to keep this fresh and the bread not soggy, assemble it the morning before you eat!
No Microwave or Fridge Pasta Salads
They’re not just for summer barbecues. After you prepare a pasta salad, the flavors of all the ingredients continue to meld, so that by the time you sit down to eat lunch, it’ll usually taste even better than when you first prepped it!
One of my go-to pasta salad recipes all year round, especially when you have no microwave or fridge. The dressing is delicious—and when I’m out of sugar, I make the recipe with honey and it tastes just as great. However, it won’t still be vegan if you do use honey. Maybe try agave instead.
This antipasto pasta salad is a great minimal cooking recipe and perfect for using up deli meats or extra veggies in your fridge. This will be one of your new favorite recipes.
This pasta salad is great cold, at room temperature, or heated up if you do in fact have a microwave! Choose your favorite store-bought pesto, or if you own a food processor, you can try your hand at making pesto. Here’s an easy recipe that can be your go-to.
So flavorful, and having this easy spicy peanut sauce in your arsenal will be a game-changer.
Give me a Greek salad any day of the year and I’m happy. Add pasta into the mix and your Greek salad will actually have some staying power. The lemon juice is your secret weapon for keeping all the veggies in this salad extra fresh in your bag.
Ever thought to combine Mexican flavors with pasta? You really need to try this creamy, zesty salad with a kick.
More No-reheat Meal Ideas
- Are you looking for cold lunch ideas that are refrigerated and still taste great without being reheated? Check out more recipes for when you don’t have a microwave.
- You may notice there aren’t a lot of “regular” salads mentioned in this post. That’s because they are all here!
- Looking for more super affordable no-reheat lunch ideas? These recipes are ideal for anyone without easy access to a microwave and they each cost less than $2 per serving and taste good!
- As a result of tons of requests from members of the WWL community, I finally took the plunge into creating these no-cook vegan meals — I always appreciate what you all want to know!
- Going on a picnic or needing some good food on the go? Check out our favorite picnic foods, as well as 70+ meals for camping!
Workweek Lunch offers hundreds of no-reheat meal ideas that don’t have to be refrigerated in the WWL Meal Prep Program, but a few free recipes also fit the bill. Learn how to become a member and access all WWL recipes here.